In a series of interviews that Playgroup NSW CEO Karen Bevan has been doing with Kinderling Radio, she provides some tips for play that involve building with blocks and imagination.
“Building things and knocking them down” is what experts call “constructive play” and is the type of play where children use wooden blocks, DUPLO® or sand to build something of their own.
Karen explains, “[you] don’t need to wait until kids are old enough to click LEGO’s DUPLO® together, therefore you can introduce your kids to building play as soon as they are ready to sit up.”
Construction play is much more than just putting a bunch of blocks in front of your child. This type of play “ignites a child’s imagination,” says Karen, “and creates opportunities for parents, carers and kids to have conversations and to build their relationship.”
Karen has seven great tips for encouraging your little builders:
1. Fancy toys are not always the eye catchers
Parents want their children to have the best quality toys, but the children won’t always agree on this. At first they might be more drawn towards kitchen items, like: plastic containers or saucepans, or even toilet paper rolls.
Let them go for it if they want to create a toilet roll tower. Children create their own meaning as they go along.
2. Let their imagination ignite
“Kids might pick up a block, put another block under it and push it along, and now we’ve got a car,” explains Karen. DUPLO® or wooden blocks are great toys to engage your child’s fine and gross motor skills - they stack them and put them together using their imagination.
After the age of 3 years old, children tend to join imaginative forces with one another; this is how they learn to play together.
3. Build language
Karen encourages you to build children’s experience around language by naming shapes and colours. For example, “I used a triangle; I used an orange block.”
4. Help them identify patterns
Children will start to understand and identify patterns. You can notice this when your child begins to put all square blocks on top of each other, or they will naturally want to put the lid on a container.
You can encourage the child by mentioning these patterns to them when they recognise that certain things connect to each other. Karen points out that this is actually a codification skill, or in other words - kids are starting to think mathematically
5. Ask open questions
Open questions help children connect and engage more with their toys and with each other. Some examples of open questions you can ask your child are: “How many of the orange blocks can you find and put together? And what do you think you might make with them?”
You can also ask your child to explain what they’ve built, this will help develop their thinking skills.
It’s important to remind your child that they have done a great job and encourage them to continue. You can do this by asking questions like: “How are we going to put that together?”
7. Relax and be present
Remember: “If you’re having fun, they’ll be having fun,” says Karen. The important tip here is to get over the tendency to take over your child’s project. Building play is about doing it together, not perfectly.
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